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Senators, Leafs look to move up in standings

by Brian Hunter /

MAPLE LEAFS (3-10-5) at SENATORS (8-6-3)

Last 10 -- Toronto 3-3-4; Ottawa 3-4-3

Season series -- Second of six meetings this season. Shean Donovan and Daniel Alfredsson scored 37 seconds apart, with Alfredsson converting a penalty shot, as the Senators claimed a 2-1 win on Oct. 6 in the first NHL start for Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson. The two second-period goals were all he allowed, but it was enough to beat him as Matt Stajan's power-play goal in the third was all Toronto managed.

Big story -- Ottawa's five-game homestand got off to a difficult start when the Senators fell 2-1 to the New York Rangers in a seven-round shootout Saturday afternoon. While it's early in the season, they currently sit third in the Northeast Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference, and this is a prime opportunity to pick up some points and close the gap in the standings between themselves and those who have playoff positioning.

"It’s not easy to win games," Alfredsson said. "You look at the standings and it's extremely close. Every game is important.

"When you have your chance (to win) and you feel like you're the better team, you want to win in regulation and not give the other team an extra point or even a chance to get two points."

Team scope:

Maple Leafs -- After picking up at least one point in seven straight (3-0-4), Toronto has reverted back to its early-season struggles, digging early holes in games and dropping its last three in regulation.

"That's all we talk about, bad starts or things we can do," coach Ron Wilson said. "We've got to simplify our approach at the beginning. More dump-ins and safe plays in the neutral zone."

"We've got to bear down and do it right from the beginning."

Senators -- Ottawa has played nine one-goal games already, including four out of five in the month of November. While the Senators are 5-1-3 in such contests, there's still a focus around the team of generating more offense.

"You need to score more than one goal, usually, to win a hockey game," coach Cory Clouston said. "We had opportunities (against the Rangers) and we did a lot of good things around the net. We were a lot more of a presence around the net. We drove the net a lot harder than we did the (game) before. We made a conscious effort to get a lot more traffic.

"It’s tough to score goals in the NHL. We’ve just got to keep working hard. We’ve got a couple of guys who are squeezing their stick, but when those guys get feeling good about themselves and putting pucks in the net, it’s going to make us a lot more difficult to play against."

Who's hot -- Each side has a defenseman coming off a solid game, as Francois Beauchemin recorded a goal and an assist in Toronto's loss to Calgary on Saturday and Brian Lee scored Ottawa's lone goal against New York, his second in four games.

Injury report --
Leafs defenseman Mike Komisarek is on injured reserve with a quadriceps injury. Senators defenseman Anton Volchenkov is about a week away from returning from an elbow injury.

Stat pack -- Ottawa will be looking to jump on its provincial rivals early, as Toronto has been outscored 23-9 in the first period this season. The Leafs have allowed the first goal in 16 of their 18 games and have fallen behind 2-0 on 10 occasions.

Puck drop -- Both teams have tenuous goalie situations. Brian Elliott was solid for the Senators against the Rangers and could start again in place of the slumping Pascal Leclaire. And while Gustavsson appears to be the long-term solution for the Leafs, he was pulled from his last start in favor of Vesa Toskala, who looked good in his last start against the Blackhawks.

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